Thursday, September 17, 2009

Rhett Miller @The Bell House, Sept. 16th

Perhaps I do have too much time on my hands nowadays. This afternoon, I decided to pay a bit more attention to my Twitter feed and saw this contest for free tickets to the Rhett Miller show later in the evening. Almost an hour had gone by since the contest was tweeted, and I figured someone had to have beaten me to the punch, but I went ahead and emailed my googled answer of "Homeward Bound," and lo and behold, I won. I got in touch with Shana and we figured why not go tonight -- it'd be a nice, free opportunity to check out The Bell House again (our prior visit being the disappointing Pains show in March).

Before tonight, I have to admit my greatest exposure to Rhett Miller was when he appeared in the movie "The Break-Up," in which the two main characters, played by
Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston, share a love of Rhett's main band, Old 97s. As much as I dig alt-country acts like Uncle Tupelo, Wilco, The Jayhawks, Golden Smog, Ryan Adams, and the like, I never got around to checking out Rhett and his bandmates. Ah well.

I enjoyed Rhett's solo iteration, backed by a solid trio known as The Serial Lady Killers. The first part of the show, which focused mainly on stuff from his latest album (I think), had a high energy level, but felt a bit pushed, rushed and one might even say rambunctious because it did not let up -- like the music wanted to breathe but couldn't. Not until the acoustic guitar was brought out did I feel like Rhett really hit his stride, allowing for some nuance to filter in. But by then, he had really captured my attention. I realized I did know a few of the songs (including the overly? romantic "Question," which I decided right then and there I really liked), helping me get into the set more. The last third of the set list delved into older stuff and grew looser and more honky-tonk.

Seeing Rhett Miller reminded me of times I have seen other musicians like Jesse Malin or the Bielanko Brothers from Marah or Pete Yorn -- solid singer-songwriters on guitar who infuse great energy and stage presence into their live performances (and it doesn't hurt that they're pretty darn cute, too). While I might not rush out and buy every album in their catalogs, I have a pretty good time watching some good time rock 'n roll in intimate settings.

Shana and I got to The Bell House just in time to catch the first opener, Mia Riddle and Her Band, whom we really, really enjoyed. Her music was probably more akin to what Shana and I have been listening to lately, full of great harmonies between Mia and her keyboardist, Amy Merrill. I am superglad we didn't miss any of this band's music.

For the last song, Mia took off her shoes so she could jump around on stage, barefoot. Totally adorable.

The second opener was Jim Ward, of Sleepercar, Sparta and At The Drive-In fame, who bravely appeared by himself with acoustic guitar and nothing/no one else. While he was a very skilled guitarist and singer, I couldn't get really into his music too much. A little too scream-o for my tastes. If I had to make a comparison, I'd have to say Dashboard Confessional (not that I'm that familiar) with a little Rufus Wainwright and Mark Eitzel thrown in. Weird, I know.

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